Wind Energy versus Sustainable Agriculture: An Ontario Perspective

Douglas W. Morris, Natalie Blekkenhorst


Wind power is often promoted as an economical and low-carbon alternative to fossil fuels despite ecological concerns about animal mortalities and energy sprawl. Wind-power developments that are becoming commonplace in rural agricultural landscapes reduce the area of arable farmlands, but to date there have been few attempts to quantify their cumulative effects. This paper compiles data on recently completed wind developments in southwestern Ontario, Canada, in order to estimate how much agricultural land is being lost to wind developments, how much of the rural landscape is being modified, and what the implications are to carbon sequestration, sustainable agriculture, and Ontario’s food security. Although the direct footprint of wind development is small relative to the total area and productivity of Ontario’s farmland, the area of undertaking is many times larger and has already altered 6% of Ontario’s total agricultural land base. Wind-power development must thus be considered among the contributors to Ontario’s projected food deficit, the ability to sequester carbon in agricultural soils, and must similarly be included in any policies aimed at protecting farmlands from non-agricultural uses.

Keywords: agriculture; energy sprawl; farmland; food security; Ontario; wind power

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The Journal of Rural and Community Development is supported by SSHRC.